Dancing for your life…street version




By Caitlin Kelly

Loved this, from The New York Times dance critic:

One day, before the coronavirus pandemic, a river of pedestrians — half manic, half clueless — was feeding onto the escalator at the West Fourth Street subway station during rush hour. Blocking the escalator entrance were people gazing at their phones. Once they finally stepped on, they planted themselves on the left. It was a mess.

You stand on the right; you pass on the left. This is the choreography of everyday life.

I found myself directing people where to stand and when to move. As the bottom half of the escalator started to organize itself, I noticed that something similar was happening toward the top. I recognized the voice up there: It belonged to Ori Flomin, a dancer, teacher and choreographer. We saw each other and giggled.

“Of course,” he said, “we are the ones arranging people in space.”


I started studying ballet at 12, and took ballet and jazz classes five nights a week in my 20s. I only stopped a few years ago thanks to my messed-up knees.

Dance, for fun or in a studio, has long been a way to stay in touch with my senses and sense of balance and rhythm and grace. I’ve never really understood people who “hate to dance” but I know there are many of them! Once you learn to parse a piece of music — a waltz or a mazurka, have your body remember allegro and adagio and what it should do in response — it’s a permanent muscle memory.

And understanding how your body moves within space — and especially in relationship to other bodies — is key to dance, even if all you ever do is take a dance class. You still have to navigate your spot at the barre or leaping and spinning across the floor. You swing your legs in grands battements, careful not to knock anyone while focused on staying strong, centered, elegant.

Spatial awareness is a very real quality we all need to cultivate right now in shared spaces to avoid endless transmission of COVID-19.

Heedless selfishness is now, we all know, lethal.

Those days are gone. Or soon will be; on April 1 — no joke! — New York governor Andrew Cuomo declared every New York City playground closed.

But the ambitious, driven, rushrushrush sort of people who live in New York City — a massively dense city to start with — are also used to being shoved and jostled, in the subway, in line-ups, pretty much anywhere.

So learning to literally keep your damn distance, every day, everywhere — to step out of an elevator with anyone else in it (a la Devil Wears Prada!) — is a new challenge.

Add to this the relentless American individualism that somehow insists each person’s own comfort and safety matters far more than anyone else’s…good luck!


12 thoughts on “Dancing for your life…street version

  1. I am a relentless American individualist, as are most of my friends. We give space to others to protect ourselves and in recognition of the rights of others to look after themselves,, as they are individuals like we are.
    I will gladly concede that you know more about New York City and its people than I do. That small piece of knowledge tells you nothing about the American people as a whole.
    This statement about American Individualists,, the most recent of many, is untrue, unfair and unworthy of a fine journalist such as yourself. Much as it breaks my heart to say it, I would be a poor friend if I didn’t, your real friends will stand up to you.
    Everything’s cool down here, hope you guys are good too.

    1. I see the selfishness and it is lethal.

      Other nations socialize their children from infancy to KNOW and behave in ways that support the belief (like single payer health insurance cradle to grave) that the common good is every bit as important as anyone’s individual pleasure or amusement.

      Americans expect “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That’s nice in good times.

      Canadians’ constitution? “peace, order and good government.” That’s what we need now.

      Just look at the crowded beaches of Florida and the religious “leaders” now breaking the law by insisting people MUST worship in close proximity. How is this unselfish or informed behavior?

      This is insanity.

      1. The Constitution of the United States of America was made “In order to form a more perfect union, establish Justice,, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”. Sounds like peace order and good government to me.
        The Declaration of Independence says “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life,, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” These rights,( Note that word) call them what you will, are far more than some puerile turf battle over toilet paper or hand sanitizer
        When I look at the spring breakers, many of whom probably think their student loans should be forgiven, or the flocks of sheep jamming into our lady of pestilence, I think the same thing as everyone else I know: They’re idiots and I have no sympathy for them, except for the kids in church who had no choice. Unselfish? No. Informed? Yes,, but they don’t care, which only makes it worse. Drawing this matter up as a sketch of American thinking is a poorly informed viewpoint at best. Americans are as decent and good hearted people as any, and more so than many. We are your countrymen and we deserve your respect.

      2. Damn right. You would do well to remember that yourself. Our country,, yours too,, is full of people who work tirelessly to help their neighbors, know them or not,,, for no more of a reason than it’s the way you’re supposed to do it. That’s most of us. Not all of us, I’m willing to admit, but certainly enough to make the point that American is not a word to be used as an insult.
        I don’t like Al Sharpton but I don’t paint every black person in America to look like him, even those who might share some of his political views. Why? Because passing judgement on the moral character of entire groups of people,, like Americans,, for instance, puts you one brown shirt away from being a Nazi. Respect that.

  2. Hi Caitlin, I’m worried about the people of
    NY. Trudeau warned yesterday that Canadians being out of isolation by July is optimistic and our numbers are much lower (per capita). I hope everyone listens to your governor. Stay safe and well.

    1. Thanks!

      For now, Jose and I are healthy; we have N95 masks and Lysol wipes and latex gloves and wear a mask in every shared public space (including our apt. halls since now it’s been determined this is spread not only by sneezes and coughs but breathing.)

      It is a very frightening time. We are fortunate not to live in NYC…our friends there hear sirens all day long now.

  3. I love dancing and I was about to start Latin dance classes again, but then coronavirus put a stop to that. I’m doing my best to stay strong and centred though — it’s one of the reasons why I’m such a fan of Pilates (thankfully, I can do that at home). It’s all about cultivating strength and poise!

      1. Ah, did you have a bad experience with it?

        I’ve tried spinning classes but I find that I stick to Pilates more regularly. The first few times I went spinning, I felt horribly nauseous afterwards. Not sure why!

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